Archives for August 2012

Innovative professor, or shill for Apple?

You decide. . .


(I totally should get a commission from Apple; many of my students bought their own devices following this experiment.)

Because I don’t already have enough to do. . .

I’m going to try to keep up with the EdStartup 101 MOOC.  I’m not planning on blogging about it here at The Clutter Museum, but if you’re interested in that topic, please join me in the MOOC.

I’ll be posting my assignments at a new mini-blog I created for the course, (Technically) Doing History.

More Living-In-Idaho Moments

. . .brought to you, I hope to God, by stereotypes about this place I live, rather than actual retail metrics.  Check out the top ad:


Of course, it’s a companion piece to my photo from yesterday’s post:

I do have one question: if Idahoans are allegedly so hellbent on survival, why did I see EIGHT young children riding in the bed of a single pickup truck on the freeway?


Thanks to wildfires in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and even California, the Treasure Valley, where Boise lies, is shrouded this week in dense smoke. The haze obscures the mountains in all directions, and it even makes it difficult to see the local foothills. We can not only see and smell the air–we can taste it. Our latest houseguest joked that the tomatoes harvested from our garden come pre-smoked.

This haze, coupled with the heat—we’ve had highs of 100 degrees or so for the past couple weeks—means that my final couple weeks of summer, which I traditionally aim to spend puttering in the garden, reading on the shady patio, and taking long morning walks with the dog before the day gets too hot, have been, and will continue to be, spent indoors. I’m one of the lucky folks to fall into the “sensitive groups” mentioned in air quality reports, so I especially resent being taken hostage by the smoke, colorful sunsets be damned.

While I’m most plagued by the literal haze, I must acknowledge the equally dense metaphorical haze that has settled over our household.

I’m not super comfortable with uncertainty, but Fang is even less tolerant of it, and right now our vision of the future is hazy at best.

Endcap at bookstore displaying survivalist literature

A regular feature at many Idaho bookstores: a survivalist literature section.

Fang is going back to school for the first time in 32 years—very part time, as a history major—but he also is taking on a half-time job in the History department office as front-desk staff. He’s going to continue to do his freelance graphic, web design, and photography work, but he (well, we) decided he needed to get out of the house more often.

Still, Fang, ever the optimist, sees the new job as the beginning of the end of his life. He feels—and who can blame him?—that at age 50, he shouldn’t be accepting jobs that pay not much more than minimum wage. Plus, it doesn’t help that we’re never certain when work from his biggest freelance clients will dry up—such is the danger of working for clients in the newspaper industry, where Fang’s expertise (and freelance workload) is strongest.  Too much uncertainty!  Too much change!*

Last year, he finished a novel, but because it’s long—666 pages, to be exact—he’s had a hard time persuading busy friends and family to read it and offer feedback.  I made it all the way through, copyediting and offering suggestions, and—shhh! don’t tell him, because he doesn’t like to talk about it—I’m doing another read-through in the hopes of getting it to the point where we can talk to an editor or agent, or we can publish it on Kindle and print on demand. Because nobody else bothered to read it, though, he’s feeling very much as if his dream of being a writer is dead.

That’s disheartening to me, because (and maybe I am biased here) he’s one of the sharpest writers I know.  At the same time, some very smart folks I know who read his blog have told me, completely unprovoked, that it’s one of their favorites.  I’m hoping the new job, with its regular schedule and its human interface, will remind him that he can make—and has been making—valuable contributions in any number of social, cultural, and political spheres.

In the meantime, if you do read Fang’s blog, do me a favor and leave a comment from time to time, OK?  You needn’t praise him, of course, but comments let him know someone is reading and appreciates what he’s doing.  Maybe it will help clear the haze around here.

Thanks, and I’ll let you know when his novel is available.  :)


* Fang once explained, “It’s only a rut if you’re looking down on it.  If you’re in it, it’s a groove.”